Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Protein For Height?

If you grew up in my generation in Israel, you’re most likely significantly taller than your parents. The average height of Israelis born in the 60’s is probably 2-3 inches more than their parents, a significant change. But since then, average height hasn’t been changing much. My kids are around my height (with adjustments for one of them being a boy…), and that’s pretty much par for the course.

In the U.S., average height hasn’t been increasing since around the turn of the past century (1900). This is what I heard from an academic pediatrician. Overall, however, Americans are somewhat taller than Israelis, Italians and the French, shorter than the British, and much shorter than the Dutch. In fact, the Dutch take the gold with the tallest population in Europe. Average height for a Dutch woman in her 20’s is 5’9”(!). I don’t know about men, but I’d speculate 6’1”.

The interesting point is that the Dutch were not taller than other Europeans before WWII. For some reason, there has been a dramatic increase in their height in the last 50 years. Why is this huge change of interest? Because it implies that apart from genetics, there is some other method of increasing an individual’s height. Now for most people, this isn’t really a need. But for a significant minority, it is.

My gym offers every new member a few classes with an individual trainer to acquaint us with the equipment. My trainer was a fairly short (I think 5’5”), overly muscle bound guy. He was very sweet, and we talked about his reasons for muscle building. He loved it because it made him feel substantial next to other guys. I could understand. But I could also of course see that no amount of muscle building would make up for his height, and that his stature had bothered him since his childhood.

There are many kids like that, and it’s fairly predictable, usually their parents are on the short side as well. So instead of building enormous muscles as adults, is there something that can be done for them as kids? The medical establishment has been working on this question for years, and in extreme cases, they will give children shots of growth hormone in the hope that they’ll grow taller. It’s not clear how well this works.

So back to the Dutch. And the comparison to Israelis, Italians, and Americans. What is the difference? How did the Dutch get so tall?

Well, if you’ve spent some time in Holland, you know that the Dutch drink prodigious quantities of milk. Easily 4-6 cups a day as adults. Probably similar for kids. When not drinking milk they like to have this wonderful fruit yogurt that comes in large milk cartons. Add to that Gouda and Edam cheeses… Mucho protein. Compare this to a typical Italian diet. A little bread with jam in the morning. A pasta with perhaps a cream dressing for lunch. Maybe a salad. More pasta, maybe a little meat for dinner. Perhaps a gelato in between. Some coffee, some wine and a couple of aperitivos…

So how much protein do we need? Well, I’m told that a minimum for a woman of my height is 50 grams per day, and recommended is 120. Have you every tried to eat 120 grams of protein a day? One way to do it is to add protein powder to your food – protein enhanced smoothies, etc. Another alternative is to drink lots of milk – 5-6 glasses a day. Otherwise, it’s virtually impossible.

So what happens when adults add this protein to their diet? Well, if you’re also doing some weight-bearing exercises, the effect is dramatic. You build muscle that can rival Schwarzeneger. No steroids required.

And what happens if you give a child such quantities of protein? Well, I would speculate that they get taller. Just like the Dutch.

It’s of course unproven, and would be very hard to prove. But perhaps it’s a benign way of increasing height in children that are otherwise destined to be much shorter than their peers. Which is a good thing.

It’s not very difficult. Bodybuilders have figured it out. Various fruit shakes with added protein taste pretty good. Most kids would drink chocolate milk supplemented with protein powder if they were offered it regularly. Maybe 120gr per day is a good target. It’s very unlikely to do any harm, and I’m willing to bet it would do a lot for their final height.

Population Growth

Dinner party conversation last night raised a point I’d never thought about. That population growth (or shrinkage) is related not only to the number of children the average woman bears, but also to her age when she gives birth. Meaning, let’s say that women have, on average, two kids. The effect on population growth will be completely different if they have them at age 20 (in which case population growth will be higher) or if they have them at age 40 (population growth will be lower).

I’d love to figure out the equation that governs this, but let’s take a simple example. For simplification we’ll trace only female lineage, but if you think about it you’ll see that this doesn’t change the essential results:

Let’s say life expectancy is 85. A woman has two children at age 20 (boy and girl). When she’s 40, her daughter has two kids (boy and girl). When she’s 60, her grandaughter has two kids (boy and girl). When she’s 80 her great grandaughter has two kids. That means that when she dies at age 85, there are eight people alive that are offspring of herself or of her direct female descendants.

Now let’s assume that she gives birth at age 40. When she’s 40 she has two children. When she’s 80, her daughter has two kids. When she dies at age 85, there are only four people alive that are her offspring, or offspring of her female descendants. Meaning, the difference within this period of 85 years is a factor of two. Double the population just because of the earlier age of childbearing.

I find this particularly interesting since we tend to talk about the replacement rate – the rate of birth that’s required to keep a population steady (not declining), and it’s usually quoted at about 2.1 births per woman. But in fact, this rate is tightly tied to the age of childbearing, and changes in that age can change population sizes dramatically, even if the number of children per woman remains constant.

Of course the specific example of interest is today’s phenomena of women having children later in life. With new methods that allow freezing of eggs for later use, this age is likely to get even higher. The conclusion is that this change can cause population decline even if the ultimate number of births per woman doesn’t change.


Well, scratch my previous post. Just when I least expected it…

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Not When You Most Expect It

Without diminishing its impact, it’s safe to say that Hurricane Katrina turned out to be much more benign than predicted. Which seems to be the way life works. The things we fear most often turn out to be negligible. The truly important stuff often creeps up upon us unexpected. Like 9/11. Or like this years’ Asian tsunami.

I’m in an I-told-you-so frame of mind. When I first heard about Katrina I told my friend that I’m sure it won’t be nearly as bad as expected. And not surprisingly, I was right. None of this stuff ever is. It’s the stuff that you don’t expect that truly wipes you out.

And so of course, it’s just as you’re relaxing and wiping your forehead with relief in one of those run down old houses in the French Quarter that the roof comes tumbling down on your head. So beware!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Recommended Reading

Rachel's blog. That's my daughter...

Intel Developers Forum

I spent a couple of days at the Intel Developers Forum in San Francisco this week. Intel is an amazing company. Virtually every PC made in the world has an Intel processor in it (200 million per year), or an AMD Intel clone. Most cell phones have Intel chips in them. Intel’s revenues - $37B per year. Net income, $8.25B…

I first worked with Intel processors in 1981… I actually programmed Intel 8080 processors in Assembly code. I remember our resident computer whiz expounding on how, even though Intel never had the best processors, they had the best customer support, and in the end they would win. The two competitors (both with better products), were Zilog (the Z80), and Motorola (the 6800). And who won? Well, you know. And who wasn’t clever enough to buy some Intel stock then and there (or even 10 years later)? Yours truly.

But enough of that. I’m sure you’re dying to know what transpired at the show.

First I have to kvell. The show was (of course) all about Intel’s new processors. Dual core, quad core, etc… Optimized for compact laptop computers – low power and high performance. Won’t burn your lap… You’ve heard of Centrino. Well, the new generations are named Sonoma and Napa… But the processors themselves? They all have Hebrew names. Why? Because they were all developed in Israel: The Banias, the Dothan (pronounced Dotan), the Yonah, and the latest, the Merom. It was super cool. The most leading edge stuff that Intel has is developed in Israel. I felt the same way you feel when your team wins…

The funniest thing at the show… When they tried to show us that video conferencing works, and ended up showing us how it doesn’t. First with China. So Mr Maloney, Intel keynote speaker, demonstrated talking over a video conference line with the mayor of Shenzhou. He asked a question. The mayor listened, and listened, and listened… About 5 seconds later he answered… Then Maloney moved on to Holland, and the head of IT for the port of Rotterdam. The Dutchman listened, and listened, and listened. And about 5 seconds later, he answered… On to Canada. Same story. By this time the audience was almost rolling out of their seats. The great Intel is showing us how well video conferencing works, and they couldn’t get anything better than a 5 second delay. Maloney couldn’t let it rest. He had to go on to Argentina. Same story. They couldn’t have made it funnier if they’d tried. It became the running joke of the show. We were all convinced. Video conferencing still does not work…

Something I found truly interesting? Voice Over IP (otherwise known as VoIP, or IP over the Internet). This is the software and service that allow you to talk with someone over the internet as though you were using a phone – no extra charge. This is the stuff that is going to kill the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network), known in geekland as POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service). Well, when POTS was first put in place, around the turn of the last century, the highest frequency allowed was 3400 Hz. That passes voice, but it doesn’t pass the high frequencies. Our ear is actually capable of hearing up to 20,000 Hz when we’re young, and our optimum range is up to 6,000 Hz. Which is why a telephone call doesn’t sound quite like having someone in the room next to you. Well, the next generation of VoIP services will handle frequencies up to 8,000 Hz. Intel gave a demo, and the difference was truly amazing. I’m sure we were hearing the best example (a female voice, complex prose), but still. I’m excited…

What was a bit disconcerting? Well, that there don’t seem to be any women in senior positions at Intel. That’s almost par for the course, but not quite. Intel is definitely an uber-alpha-male domain. I took comfort in thinking about some of the few women who had done very well in hi-tech. Debbie Estrin – former CTO (Chief Technology Officer) of Cisco. Jayshree Ullal of Cisco. Kathy Hill of Cisco. It’s only now that I realize they’re all at Cisco… Jeanette Symons – founder and CTO of Ascend. And someone I just ran across - Safra Katz – president of Oracle. That’s it. I think I’ve exhausted the list. Slim pickins. Oh well.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Chugging Along

After at my San Francisco hotel late last night, I was told that they’re actually out of rooms. However, they told me, their sister hotel across the street would accommodate me. So I took my wheely and my computer bag and set off to cross the great divide. Along comes one of San Francisco’s homeless guys to ask me for… I assumed it was for money, and already started making a mental note to myself that this was not the time to pull out my wallet. Just refuse and keep walking, I told myself. But no, he was asking for a cigarette.

I wasn’t smoking, I don’t smoke, I have no idea why he asked for it. Maybe he was just trying to strike up a conversation? Wanted to discuss Kant late at night? Seems like you can’t be accepted for homeless status in San Francisco without finishing a PhD first. Perhaps an M.S. as a minimum.

Monday, August 22, 2005


I almost hate to admit it, but today when I read that the last Jewish settlement in Gaza – Netzarim – was evacuated, I was sad. My cousin, who would always take the most extreme view on anything, lived in Netzarim, and something about the seeming finality of it all was somehow heartbreaking.

I hope that good things will come of it.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Langer's Deli

I'm not a fan of big, New York style pastrami standwiches, even in their original form in the Big Apple, but Langer's was really good - 704 S Alvarado St in Los Angeles. Highly recommended. Thick sliced, flavorful, well, you'll need to try it. I had the non-kosher version, with swiss cheese. Open only till 4pm!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Feathers Feathers Everywhere

Either my cats have become better hunters, or the neighbourhood birds have lost their edge. In any case, my house is full of feathers. I'm hoping to find the bodyies before they decompose...


The evacuation from Gaza has entered its nail-biting phase. It’s causing me real anxiety. I’m truly afraid that the unthinkable will happen. That things will turn violent, and Israeli soldiers will get hurt or, god forbid (did I really say that?) killed.

In fact they’ve already turned violent. I don’t know how violent, but news reports say four soldiers were injured.

So how do I feel about the Gaza settlers? The same way I’ve always felt about them (my cousin, his wife and eleven kids included…). That they’re leeches. That for years they’ve unashamedly and with impunity benefited from the time and the sweat and the blood of the Israeli soldiers (my brother included) that were forced to protect their precious little settlements in that pea-sized principality named the Gaza Strip. That they’ve been content to suck money and resources and mindshare from the imbecile Israeli governments that put and kept them there.

How did this all come about? How did Israel get itself into this mess? The short of the story is that back in 1978, when Menachem Begin negotiated a peace with Anwar Sadat, in exchange for the return of the Sinai penninsula to Egypt, there was this niggling question of the Gaza Strip. The Sinai Penninsula, that was almost 99% of the land that had been taken from Egypt in the 6 day war, was virtually uninhabited. The Gaza strip was full of Palestinian refugee camps.

You can imagine the picture. Begin and Sadat agreeing, Israeli will return the Sinai Penninsula. But what about Gaza?

“I’ll be nice to you” says Sadat to Begin, “you can keep it, as a gesture of goodwill on my part.”

And poor Begin couldn’t pass up the opportunity to feel that he had come out with one prize, the tiny Gaza Strip, with it’s one million or so Palestinian refugees. What a deal.

Of course, in keeping with the ideology of the Greater Israel, the Israeli settler movement felt a need to settle the Gaza Strip. But not all of them, just the most extreme. There were about 8,000 Jewish settlers in the Gaza Strip, vs about 300,000 in the West Bank. Why? Because in their heart of hearts even the settlers have to agree that the Gaza Strip is a) much less important, strategically, to Israel, and that b) trying to lord over one million Palestinians in refugee camps is about as nutty as you can get.

But the Israeli right was caught in the same Catch 22 that Begin encountered. If you believe in the Greater Israel, how could they give up even this little strip of land, pathetic as it is, without undermining their purist ideals. It’s about the same argument that pro-lifers have when they say that any kind of abortion is murder, no matter how early it happens in the pregnancy. It’s an internally consistent argument, but it’s effectively indefensible.

What’s the added inanity of this situation? It’s that if Begin had given the Gaza strip back to Sadat in 1978, then keeping Palestinian terrorists at bay and preventing them from shooting missiles from Gaza into Israel would have been Egypt’s problem. Now what do we have? A miniscule little Palestinian enclave, virtually independent from monitoring, with no one but Palestinians there to police it. Great. This is what we’ve gotten for the extra 27 years of settlement.

Now that Israel has finally put its foot down, it turns out these dear settlers may actually be willing to spill Jewish blood for their meshigas. I hope it’s all a bluff and this evacuation passes without bloodshed. If it does, I’ll have renewed faith in the future of Israel.

Monday, August 15, 2005

A New Sign...

I saw it today at an upscale gym in Santa Rosa. Here it is:

Now That Most Cell Phones Have Cameras, Cell Phones Are Not Permitted in the Gym

Hmmmm, what does that mean? Have they had problems with gym members photographing other exercisers in compromising positions? Sneaky sneaky sneaky...

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


USA Today scored again, this time related to motorcycle fatalities. Yesterday their front page article claimed that motorcycle accident fatalities have increased in the last two years (up 13.9% last year, and up 87% from 1997), while automobile fatalities went down by 3.2% last year. In absolute numbers, there were about 4,000 motorcycle fatalities in 2004, vs. 19,000 automobile deaths.

The article struck a chord with me. First of all, just the previous day, while driving in stop-and-go traffic on the highway, I saw the car in front of me change lanes and hit a motorcycle driver that was trying to pass him on the right. The motorcycle driver skidded to the side of the road and rolled over. He got up and seemed to be fine. Of course he was wearing one of those new space-age motorcycle outfits. Not that much fun in noon-day sun.

Earlier this year there were worse results. First my daughter’s friend was hit by an SUV while turning left at an intersection. He lost his right leg. Then my gardner’s son was hit head on by a drunk driver and was in a coma for two months. He’s back to life, minus one eye and the use of one hand…

Three years ago, at a summer vacation in Durango, Colorado, the highways were blackened by motorcycle drivers. It was, as it turned out, an annual motorcyclist convention. Tens of thousands of motorcyclists from all over the country. Why in Colorado? Because Colorado was one of only two states in the union that didn’t have a helmet law. One of the attendees, the editor of a motorcyclist’s magazine, gave me his view. These guys, he explained, are mostly RUB’s (Rich Urban Bikers). You have to be rich to own those Harleys. He himself, his main concern in life was to keep his name off credit agency listings. He paid only cash. He wanted to tell me about the chip that the government had implanted in his butt, but we were interrupted.

Around the same time, Vespa celebrated its umpteenth anniversary, and the New York Times published a Vespa ad from the 50’s. A well dressed gentleman in suit and tie was driving his new bicicletta near the Duomo of Milan. No helmet of course. A lovely lady, I assume his wife, was sitting side-saddle behind him in a dress. In her arms she held a baby… How our standards have changed…

At work I’m surrounded by motorcycle drivers. Our directors of operations and engineering are both avid motorcyclists. Our director of sales reluctantly stopped motorcycle racing after his second concussion in an accident last year.

A colleague’s wife is an ER doctor.

“You know what we call motorcyclists that come into the emergency room?” she asks me.

“Road Kill”

Later yesterday, as I drove the 90 minute ride from Santa Rosa to Oakland airport I counted the motorcyles I saw on the way. I saw 7 motorcycles among maybe 10,000 cars. Consider that when you think of 4,000 motorcycle deaths vs. 19,000 in cars.

Yes, I’m thinking of starting MAM, Mothers Against Motorcycles.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Naked Truth

Having been convinced by the relentless pounding of the pseudo-medical establishment that I should make sure and embibe a daily dose of fruit-derived anti-oxidants – and that berries, specifically blueberries, are the best source of said anti’s, I succumbed to the temptation and bought a ridiculously expensive bottle of Naked Juice, the one titled Antioxidant, Berry Blast, in a blue and red bottle. As I sipped, I read the witty script on the bottle – the contemporary equivalent of reading the cereal box cover at breakfast.

Ok, so…

Calories – 240 (that’s two “servings” of 120 calories each)
Ingredients – apple/pear juice blend, banana puree, strawberry puree, blackberry puree, rasberry puree, etc..

The bottle continues to say:

Jam Packed with a Pound of Fruit Per Bottle

3 applies or pears..
½ banana

and here’s the kicker, the antioxidant source:

1 strawberry
3 rasberries
3 blackberries

(no blueberries)

When was the last time you ate one strawberry, three rasberries and three blackberries and thought you were doing yourself a nutritional favor?

If you like sweet juice, drink Naked Juice. If you want antioxidant berries, look elsewhere.

Judith Miller…

What more is there to say? Not much, just an observation that may be obvious to you, but required some thinking on my part…

So we keep hearing that Judith Miller is being held in contempt of court and jailed EVEN though she never wrote anything about Valerie Plame/Wilson. As though the fact that she didn’t write anything is an extenuating circumstance.

Well, here’s my understanding: If I walk down the street and am witness to a crime, a court of law can force me to testify about it. This would be true whether or not I were a journalist, and whether or not I wrote an article about it.

The same idea applies here. Miller was witness to a crime. The court is asking her to testify about it. If she had written an article about it, one could claim that her refusal to testify was a protection of her sources, although that is probably not a legally protected right. In this case she didn’t even write about it. Which means that her case is more similar to the case of me walking down the street and witnessing a crime. It may not, ultimately, have anything to do with journalistic priviledge. She’s just protecting the perpetrator because she has OTHER business dealings (in this case journalistic) with him/(her?). That doesn’t turn her into a martyr. Does it?

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The New Dove Billboards

This is a subject that’s been gnawing at the back of my mind, but somehow the story broke in the mainstream media before I could get around to it. Still, I’ll weigh in here:

Don’t those Dove billboards bug you? In case you haven’t seen them, they show somewhat plump (or perhaps I should say “real”) women standing around in their underwear (it doesn’t quite look like lingerie) looking delighted to be showing off their bodies. The name of the campaign, Real Women have Real Curves. Check it out.

I don’t know what to make of it. I’ve been struggling to even find an angle with which to attack this subject. But here are a few questions that may help us sort it all out:

1. Would Old Spice ever consider having a billboard titled Real Men Have Beer Bellies?

2. If I’m not that curvy, should I take offense? Am I not a real woman?

3. Is Dove fattening? If I use Dove, will I end up looking like these ladies?

4. If I were obese, would the message be that Dove will help me lose weight?

5. When will they finally take these billboards down?

There, I’ve broken my silence on this matter. Of course, when I put my marketing cap on, I have to ask,

1. Has this campaign boosted Dove’s sales?

2. If Dove had spent the same money on a more standard set of ads, would it have been more effective?

I’m hoping the answer to #1 is no. Failing that, I hope the answer to #2 is yes…

Did I mention that these ads are for anti-cellulite cream....???? (Aug 6)

Monday, August 01, 2005

Atkins Declares Bankruptcy

Apparently the no-carb diet is on the skids. In our ever accelerating world, diet trends are moving faster than you can lose a pound. This announcement matched the title of an article I saw last week “The Calorie is Back”. Yuck. I think I’ll stick to the French Women Don’t Get Fat regime. It seems to have some permanency to it. Maybe I’ll just change it to Italian Women Don’t Get Fat. I’m not too fond of the French at the moment…

A Bad Week

It’s been a bad week on the health front. A friend’s mother was diagnosed with metastasized breast cancer. Another friend’s husband died of an infection he contracted during gallbladder surgery. Yet another friend’s mother died just a few hours ago of an infection she contracted during chemotherapy to combat an autoimmune disorder. Yes, the cure worked, the patient died… I feel it’s time for me to go to synagogue to say Kadish.